Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge knew going into the NBA Draft Lottery the odds were not in favor of his team getting a top pick. But maybe, just maybe, the ping pong balls would make a surprise landing.
They did, for the underdog Cleveland Cavaliers who got the number one pick in spite of just a 1.7 percent chance. The night was more predictable for the Celtics. They received the sixth pick, which they had a 34.2 percent chance of landing.
“We (Ainge and staff) were all disappointed. But at the same time, we were prepared for this and we knew that this was a strong possibility,” Ainge said Tuesday night from Los Angeles, where he is watching draft workouts. “It’s a momentary disappointment. You hope to get the lucky ball, but now we have some clarity and some marching orders.”
The Celtics finished this season 25-57 following an overhaul last summer. Ainge set realistic expectations after the departures of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and former head coach Doc Rivers, and he continues to do so approaching the draft.
Even though the organization is looking to get back on the winning track sooner rather than later, Ainge does not expect the next superstar to be available at the sixth pick. There could be potential starters at that spot, he said, but not a “cornerstone” player. (Steve Kyler projects the Celtics selecting center Joel Embiid at six while Yannis Koutroupis has the Celtics picking Julius Randle.)
“I don’t think anyone’s going to come in and change the face of our franchise out of the gate, but I do think that there’s some good quality in this draft,” Ainge said.
The bigger question is not who the Celtics will select with the picks, but what the team will do with the selections. In addition to their own sixth pick this year, they also received the 17th pick from the Brooklyn Nets via the Pierce-Garnett trade.
That’s only 2014. The Celtics have stockpiled future picks through a series of past moves that gives them flexibility for seasons down the road. From swapping picks to bundling them, they have options to explore with their draft selections.
“I do think that’s a possibility, moving up,” Ainge said. “Moving down is also a possibility, and moving out or using those picks are all options. We’ll explore all those things.”
Movement has been widely discussed as the Celtics’ rumored interest in Kevin Love has been reported. The probability of them acquiring the three-time All-Star from the Minnesota Timberwolves took a hit after missing out on a top-three pick, but it is only May and there are many months for other names to emerge as well. Between their draft assets, expiring contracts and valued players on the roster, the Celtics have pieces to fit into a wide range of scenarios.
The team will begin holding pre-draft workouts in early June. Given the number of players who did not participate in various aspects of the NBA Draft Combine last week in Chicago, they have plenty to see before they make any decisions. With two first-round picks, there is a lot to consider once the players hit the court.
“We’d like to see our top 40 guys come in to do workouts,” said Ainge. “I don’t know how many are going to come in.”
The Celtics have five weeks to determine their Draft Night strategy. They haven’t been shy to make moves in the past, and the possibilities are wide open this year.
“This is an exciting time of the year, an exciting time for our franchise,” said Ainge. “We can do anything to taking the two draft picks and continuing to add a young talent or we can make some bigger deals that speed up our process, and everywhere in between. I that think everything’s possible and it’s going to be really interesting next month.”